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Intuit’s TurboTax product line is the leading brand of tax preparation software. The company’s innovative approach to customer reviews has not only helped improve its product but has also aggressively enabled review content to go viral and social to reach more prospects. Seth Greenberg is responsible for both offline and digital media buying and optimization, including its interaction with earned and social media campaigns. He spoke with eMarketer’s Tobi Elkin about Intuit’s experience with customer reviews and the opportunities presented by them.
eMarketer: When did Intuit begin using customer reviews?
Seth Greenberg: We started during tax season 2007 and learned that our customers are pretty passionate about telling us what they think of our product. With minimal effort, we went from zero to 50,000 reviews in about six weeks. In January 2010, which is tax season 2009, we created a new user interface that allows you to find people like you and people you know. It’s called FriendsLikeYou.com (also at http://reviews.turbotax.intuit.com), which is a database of 100,000 publicly facing reviews.
eMarketer: What have you learned?
Greenberg: We wanted to use reviews to make our product better and also wanted to make sure that we shared them transparently so that people can look at the worst and the best reviews. We have 21 million avid customers.
We wanted to directly address the barriers keeping people from using TurboTax. We designed the user interface on FriendsLikeYou.com with those barriers in mind. What are people afraid of? What is preventing someone from having the confidence to use TurboTax instead of going to a tax store? We figured if we could get those insights and then put them in front of prospects, we could help them realize there are people just like them who have the same barriers yet had a great experience with the product and saved a lot of money.
We overhauled the interface so that you can sort reviews by nearly 30 different options to whittle down the database to just a few reviews that are most relevant to your situation. You can find people like you and even people you know. Anyone who writes a review can enable friends to connect with them. We work with Bazaarvoice, which is the engine that collects reviews, and Gigya is the connective tissue that makes us network-agnostic to Facebook or Twitter.
eMarketer: How can consumer brands like yours benefit from customer reviews?
Greenberg: Using information from reviews for product innovation and improvements are table stakes. We receive an email alert when someone gives us a poor rating and review.
We use reviews to innovate in marketing communications. Reviews are a way for us to be transparent and not push down a marketing message. They’re also a way for us to let our consumers talk about us.
We could run standard banner ads, but they’re a negative interrupter. Imagine if you had a banner ad that was really helpful. If you’re on a real estate site and you’re buying a house, you don’t want to think about your taxes. But there are tax implications. We can target an ad treatment we call the “friendalyzer” that talks to the 12,215 people that bought and sold a house and used TurboTax. It allows them to read exactly what they said.
eMarketer: How are you incorporating social media tools into customer reviews?
Greenberg: We enable customers to post reviews into their Facebook news feeds so their friends can see them. We know that 50% of our 21 million customers are pretty active on Facebook and our TurboTax active customers have 150 friends.
Any time we can get them to talk about our brand, they’re actually doing what I call “friendcasting.” Friendcasting is a new and very powerful channel since consumers are now using their networks as earned media, and that’s like the Holy Grail because the influence is so much greater. The clickthroughs and sales are higher. We give customers the tools to easily share reviews with their social networks. Through friendcasting, we’re able to hyper-segment reviews for relevancy and social networks. It’s about enabling those customers who are ready to share their reviews with us to share them with their network, if they choose to.
eMarketer: Do you have any metrics that prove that customer reviews are helping business?
Greenberg: When people talk about our products on Facebook with their friends—and I mentioned that 50% of our customers are on Facebook—people are four times more likely to click on the link in the news feed. So if you talk about TurboTax and I’m a friend of yours, I’m four times more likely to click on that link vs. seeing a banner ad for the product. We found that 79% of those who clicked on the link and purchased TurboTax were brand-new customers. That showed me that friendcasting, talking about us on Facebook, is much more effective than most of our other marketing communications channels.
eMarketer: What are the next steps for Intuit’s customer reviews?
Greenberg: The next steps involve optimizing our social funnel, because we have 10 million people going through it offline and 10 million online. But a very low percentage of folks engage with and write reviews. We want to encourage more people to engage with and participate in reviews that will create a network effect. We know we aren’t going to get too many more people at the top of the funnel.
We need a better user interface and real-time testing in different variations. Leveraging reviews for loyalty initiatives is definitely on our list. We want to know how to use them to make people feel more connected to our brand. Tax time shouldn’t have to be like going to the dentist once a year. This is more of a year-round relationship when you want it. People have life changes throughout the year, and if you’re a collector we can help you easily input information along the way. If you’re a procrastinator, we can be there for you. Reviews are how consumers will maintain a relationship with brands they trust and admire.
The full version of this interview is available here, to eMarketer Total Access clients only. Every day they have access to new interviews with digital marketing leaders and trendsetting entrepreneurs.
Check out today’s other article, “Social Media Increases Small-Business Exposure.”
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